West Side Partners aim to break Marquette bubble

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West Side Partners aim to break Marquette bubble

The 2018 finalists of Rev Up MKE hold their checks.

The 2018 finalists of Rev Up MKE hold their checks.

The 2018 finalists of Rev Up MKE hold their checks.

The 2018 finalists of Rev Up MKE hold their checks.

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Four years ago, five anchor institutions — Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation — came together to establish the nonprofit organization Near West Side Partners.

NWSP is putting on multiple events this month around Marquette’s campus, according to the Center for Peacemaking’s website. 

One of the more notable events that Marquette and the Near West Side Partners, along with local businesses, are hosting this month is Rev-Up MKE.

Kelsey Otero, Marquette’s associate director for social innovation, said Rev-up MKE is a “Shark Tank”style event that will be held Sept. 24 and will be open to anyone in the community. Contestants will receive training, support and mentoring as needed before pitching their business ideas to a panel of investors, who will judge the businesses and eventually choose one winner. Among previous winners is Pete’s Pops, a popsicle startup at 3809 W. Vliet Street.

Otero said the past winners of this event have combined to create 27 jobs in total for the Near West Side community.

 She said she believes in the power of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is an excellent tool to empower a community and fight against factors that may cause displacement,” Otero said.

Elizabeth Killian, a student body representative for Near West Side Partners and co-founder of student organization CAMPus Impact, said Marquette is in a “bubble,” isolated from other parts of Milwaukee. 

“Ever since freshman year, I’ve always heard, ‘Don’t go past 21st or 22nd Street — it’s unsafe, and you should stay on campus,’” Killian said.  

She said she believes this idea prevents a lot of Marquette students from embracing the communities around them.

Killian said that statistics pertaining to the socioeconomic outlook of Milwaukee certainly point to a problem that is complex and that she believes Marquette wants to help, but there is always more to do. 

“The goal of Near West Side Partners is to unite and help the community while also trying to pop the Marquette bubble and encourage students to get out and explore the Near West Side,” Killian said.  

Patrick Kennelly is the director of Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking and serving principal investigator for the Near West Side Partners’ Promoting Assets, Reducing Crime initiative. 

I am really impressed with how Marquette, the other anchor institutions and the residents are working together. I don’t know of any other community where this type of collaboration is taking place, and it’s great that Marquette serves as a co-leader in this effort,” Kennelly said.

He said he thinks it is important to try and cultivate an environment that is a great place for everyone to live, not just students and not just residents. 

“We listen to neighbors and help build the type of community people describe,” Kennelly said.

He also said for this community to be realized, student involvement is a must.  

Students can get involved with NWSP this month through several events. There is the Rev-Up MKE Live Pitch Event today, the Near West Side Farmers Market Sept. 26 and Doors Open MKE Sept. 28-29.

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